Israel Study Tour with North Coast Church

Nov 17-28, 2019

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What it would have been like

We started our day at Katzrin, at a park designed around reenacting a first century AD village. 

We donned gowns and headdresses in order to fully immerse ourselves into the experience. Our guide took us into the village to show us how ancient people prepared their food and built their homes.

We saw an olive press and some of our group pushed the big stone wheel over the olives to mash the olive and pits. Then the mash was put into a woven basket with a wooden press on it to extract out the oil.

The adult sons, as they got engaged, would build rooms onto the parents’ home. It gave new insight to Jesus’s words, “In my Father’s house are many mansions (homes).” We got a chance to see an actual cornerstone and explore its importance, and then the masonry required to complete the building. There would be one large main room and an upper room, accessed inside the home by climbing up into the room. The kitchen area was outside and a communal family area where the meals would be prepared. And of course, there was no indoor plumbing, so we learned where and how the “excrements of life” were handled.


The ancient Jewish farming village of Katzrin was built around a spring, which still flows. Although there were standing ruins on the site, archaeological excavations have increased the number of accessible ancient buildings. An ancient synagogue was discovered in 1967 and excavated between 1971 and 1984. Other parts of the village were excavated beginning in 1983. Some of the buildings have been reconstructed on their ancient foundations and furnished with replicas of household goods and tools

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We learned that in all of Israel, wood is not a common building material due to the limited supply of trees. The homes are made of cut stone, mud for the grout, and wood just for the doors. Even the furniture in the home was mostly made of stone. In Hebrew the work “Tecton”describes a skilled mason. This is the word that is used with Jesus as him being the son of a mason (Joseph). Which means that instead of Jesus being a carpenter with wood, he was probably a skilled mason of stone. A few of us we’re reflecting on the importance of Jesus referring to himself as the Cornerstone.

All 50+ of us crammed into an actual home in the stone village and Ronan described what life would be like inside the home. Without running water or electricity, and lights being limited to oil lamps or candles held on shelving built into the walls, these were definitely more “shelter” than “house” as we know them. They didn’t “hang out” in the home. There was no personal space. Everything was everyone’s and it was the way everyone lived.

Then Chris read out of Mark chapters 1 & 2 where he described what it must have been like for Jesus to be swarmed by the crowds and to describe the friends who tore a roof off of a house to lower their paralyzed friend down to Jesus. It was humbling and we each could see and experience it, thanks to the words and the way the story was presented.

Afterwards we fixed a communal meal by making flatbread and breaking bread together. It was an amazing experience and we all left with a greater appreciation of the effort daily living used to take and how spoiled we all are.

Next we traveled to the Golan Heights and learned more about the history of the Israeli’s, Syrians and Lebanon. We were able to see how close the boarders are to each of the countries and how easily the peace between these three countries could end and how ready Israel must remain to defend itself, if necessary.

We also learned more about the topography of the land, the fact that the land is riddled with volcanic stones and rocks (basalt) making it difficult to clear fields and plant crops. The most prevalent industry in the northern region is cows. However, because of the small size of the country and how much of it is desert (unusable for food production), 90% of the meat eaten in the country is imported.

Then we went to Caeserea Philippi. This is the location where Jesus took his disciples as described in Matthew 16:13-28; Mark 8:27-9:1 and Luke 9:18-27. However, where he took them to have this conversation was at the shrine/temple of Pan (an ancient Greek god of fertility!) There were active rituals happening at the site when Jesus brought his disciples to the location and asked them to make a decision to follow the way of the world or to follow him. What a site! The impact of seeing the ruins of not only Pan, but also Zeus and Nemisis really hit home how important the decision is not just once, but each and every day to “take up our cross” and follow Jesus!

Caesarea Philippi

This abundant water supply has made the area very fertile and attractive for religious worship. Numerous temples were built at this city in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

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We ended our day in a very unique way, by visiting a winery owned by the friend of our tour guide, Ronan. We had wine tasting to end out our afternoon and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to get to deepen friendships that we are forming with the group.

On our way back to the resort, we learned about the Shabat (Sabbath) and how the nation of Israel treats the day.

Some last interesting facts:

  • Israelis work Sunday - Thursday
  • Fridays are a preparation day for the Shabat.
  • No work is done on Shabat.
  • The meal is a fancier meal than the rest of the week.
  • The family members Shower or attend a “mikveh” in preparation for the meal.
  • The family members dress up for the meal.
  • You eat with family and/or friends, but not alone.
  • Shabat is celebrated from sundown Friday to sundown on Saturday.

Tomorrow is another busy day planned!

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